Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dekalb Wins Awards by John Dersham

Last Thursday I attended the annual meeting of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. They are a large regional tourist association covering the 16 counties in North Alabama. Every year they have an educational annual meeting with seminars, a member & board meeting and an awards luncheon.
If you make your living in tourism they are a major marketing and promotion resource for you. If you are not a member already we highly recommend joining. DeKalb Tourism is a Destination Marketing Company (DMO). It is our job to promote outside DeKalb County to bring visitors to our county, as tourists. We advertise in Magazines, newspapers, Radio, TV, press releases and via digital media, social media and our website, both traditional and mobile.  Alabama Mountain Lakes promotes much the same way with the difference being they promote all of North Alabama and we promote DeKalb County. AMLA promotes to get tourists to come to North Alabama on vacation and then get them to come to DeKalb County specifically.
This year we had wonderful seminars by leading companies in our industry. They updated us on the latest trends in advertising and targeting our audience. Things have changed a lot over the last several years as marketing via electronic means now rules and traditional advertising methods are not used as much. Digital Ads, social media and websites, both tabletop and mobile are where the potential visitor is getting their information these days. Mobile web searches now account for 40% of searching on line and by 2015 it will surpass traditional table top searches. DeKalb Tourism changes its marketing plans every year in order to make sure we stay current and are able to get the most exposure possible for the dollars we spend.
This year DeKalb County did especially well at our Alabama Mountain Lakes awards banquet. In August the nearly 500 member businesses of AMLA were asked to nominate top businesses or individuals who make their living in tourism. This year we are honored to have won three awards. DeSoto State Park, Ken Thomas and staff won Attraction of the Year, Nanda Patel of the Fort Payne and Gadsden Holiday Inn Express won the Good Neighbor award for Volunteerism during the 2007 tornado’s and for other volunteer work she has contributed in DeKalb and Etowah Counties. In addition I was awarded the Lasting Impression award which commemorates overall career contributions. I want to congratulate all the award winners and especially thank Alabama Mountain Lakes for their fabulous contribution to our industry in North Alabama. North Alabama has doubled the number of dollars spent by tourists in the last ten years. DeKalb County and several other counties in North Alabama have more than doubled in ten years. Congratulations to the 1,300 people in DeKalb County whom make their living in Tourism.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Boom Days, A Week of Fun

From the Pettis Family to Theresa Andersson Boom Days was a success. We had the perfect weather all week and a stellar day last Saturday for our annual all day downtown event. I want to thank Collins and Kathy Kirby, the Boom Days planning committee, all the volunteers and the City of Fort Payne for making Boom Days a very successful and unique festival for North Alabama. There were nearly 30 music acts this year over the course of the week and we are talking about talented artists. The very talented Pettis family started our week long event on Saturday evening the 8th. It is hard to believe so much musical talent can exist in one family. If you were there, you know. It all ended last Saturday night with a performance by Theresa Andersson that defies explanation. Here is a lady who is the total one person show…literally! She writes, sings, plays drums, violin, and plays a host of foot pedals which play through a loop replicating her voice to give her own background singers.  Unfortunately I do not have the expertise to properly tell you how she did all of this but she performed to an extremely enthusiastic crowd. She received a rousing standing ovation and came out for two more songs.
Boom Days Saturday consisted of perfect weather, more artists and more vendors than ever before. There were two car shows, puppet shows, music all over the place, all day. There was food and drinks, a $500.00 cash rally, smiling faces and good crowds all day. I met a lot of out of town people who came to spend the day with us and some spent the night. Events like this are primarily local but they bring in outside spending too, all of this is helpful in collecting tax revenue. Retail spending, restaurants, lodgings and gas stations all show increases during Boom Days. Our area is a place visitors come to time and time again. Our beautiful scenery coupled with the quaint all Americana look of our towns makes DeKalb County a favorite among visitors throughout the Southeast.
If you missed Boom Days, you should try to attend next year. It is always third Saturday in September with the opening events beginning the Saturday night prior. For more information about Boom Days check out
John Dersham

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fort Payne is Booming. It is Boom Days. by John Dersham

Being Director of Tourism is a fun and rewarding job, especially since our area of responsibility is for one of the absolute most premier tourist destinations in Alabama. We are a one of a kind destination in this state. This is reflected in the tourists who come from all over the state and from other states in our region who to them this area is also very special too. It has to do with our setting between two scenic mountains and our fantastic parks, towns, attractions, camps and a culture of tourism dating back more than 100 years. We are a low cost destination and easy to get to from major nearby cities. People come here to get out of city traffic and relax and enjoy nature. With all that said, we offer something else different than anywhere else. It is called Boom Days Heritage Celebration and it started last Saturday and ends this Saturday. Boom Days is a celebration of Fort Payne’s unique history of being “boomed” by wealthy industrials from New England at the end of the ninetieth century. They came here to make Fort Payne the next great industrial center based on Iron and coal. They built beautiful Victorian homes, fantastic downtown buildings, an Opera House and a beautiful Railroad Station. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately the boom did not last long since the wealth of mineral deposits was not in our mountains as they expected. Now more than a century later, their beautiful well made architecture still stands for us to enjoy. From this history comes a one week celebration to remember our heritage  If you enjoy music, arts and crafts, museums, food and drink, classic cars and vendors with products and entertainment for the whole family then you don’t want to miss Boom Days. We enjoyed a fantastic kickoff concert by the Pettis family last Saturday evening at the DeKalb Theater. Sunday was the Joe Underwood Gospel Singing followed by the Mayor’s Cup Golf Tournament. This Saturday’s all day event starts with a 5k run at 8am and the Alaga Syrup Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast from 8-11. At 10 am the festival is in full glory with kiddie train rides, Carriage rides, a $500.00 cash rally, the Pet Pawrade, two classic car shows in different parts of downtown and a day full of unending music acts from 10 am to 8 pm. Nearly 30 music acts will appear this year. To top the day off will be the showcase concert at the DeKalb Theater at 8 pm featuring April Mae & the June Bugs followed by internationally known music extraordinaire Theresa Andersson. Please come and enjoy this very, very special day in Fort Payne.
For more information on events and times keep your eyes posted on the Times Journal or visit the Fort Payne Boom Days website at